You know what Doomsday soothsayers have to say about the number “666”, but do you know what the Bible actually says about it? It’s a popular number in doomsday prophecies and apocalyptic movies concerning the occult. It’s commonly associated with Satan and “the antichrist.” But what does the Bible really want us to know about this number?
To understand, we must become more familiar with the material that St. John was heavily referencing when he wrote The Revelation of Jesus Christ: the Old Testament.
We must look to Genesis to begin understanding the significance of the number as related to us by the Bible. On the sixth day, God created two things: creatures and man. Among the creatures are “livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth.” (Gen. 1:24-31)
So, on the sixth day, along with Man, God’s pinnacle of creation, God also created beasts. The sixth day of creation is associated with both Man and Beast.
On the seventh day, God rested. Thus, his creation week was perfected in seven days: six days of creation, one day of rest.
THE FALL OF MAN
The next event to take note of is that of Genesis 3: the fall of Man. The serpent deceived Eve “by his cunning.” (2 Cor. 11:3) He lied, telling her that she could “be like God” if she followed his advice (orders). (Gen. 3:5) Adam went along with this deception though he knew better (Gen. 2:16-17). In response to this disobedience and deception, God cursed the serpent “above all livestock and above all beasts of the field.” (v. 14)
Perhaps most remarkable thing here is God’s prophecy: he put enmity between the serpent and the woman and between their offspring. The woman’s seed “shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (v.15)
This sets up the great drama: the sons of Adam, slaves of Satan, working to pull off the greatest heist in history by stealing the inheritance of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all creation, King of kings, and commander of a kingdom of priestly kings dedicated to serving him. (Rom. 1:1)
Consider the following examples where this pattern and drama play out throughout the Bible.
DAVID AND GOLIATH
One of the most well-known events in King David’s career was his defeat of Goliath. Take note of what the Bible tells us about Goliath: he was a giant of a man, a champion of the Philistines who defied the armies of the living God. Men feared him. He was a nasty brute who promised to enslave God’s people and feed David’s flesh to the birds and beasts. (1 Sam. 17:9, 44)
Pay careful attention to the Bible’s description of his height: “his height was six cubits and a span.” Though no doubt accurate, it is also symbolic of a man trying to ascend to the heights of God. It’s as if he were made by God to be six cubits tall, but in his defiance and haughty arrogance he was grasping for more (“and a span”) in order to transcend the limitations of his creaturehood.
Not only that, but Goliath is a servant of Satan just as the serpent in the Garden was. He goes up against God’s servant, David, who is a type of Christ. Goliath wielded a massive spear whose shaft was like a “weaver’s beam,” and whose head weighed 600 shekels of iron. He was cloaked in bronze armour that weighed 5000 shekels (v.5) — or 121 pounds (assuming one shekel was 11 grams).
Goliath was a massive beast. His armor was heavy chain mail, armor that’s reminiscent of snake scales that weighed, by itself, as much as some men do. He was a beast of a man who was intent on defying God (1 Sam. 17:10) and doing battle against the seed of the woman.
The outcome is noteworthy. David did what Adam should have done: delivered a fatal blow to the serpent-like Goliath’s head. Then he cut off Goliath’s head with a sword.
As prophesied, the seed of the woman bruised the head of the serpent’s seed — a beast of a man who, in trying to conform to his father’s image (the devil’s), wore a skin of scale-armor.
SOLOMON, MAN AND BEAST
King Soloman was known for his wisdom and for building the Lord’s Temple. At the height of his empire, he “excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom” (2 Ch. 9:22) and collected 666 talents of gold (1 Kings. 10:14).
Afterward, Solomon’s fortune declined as he turned from the Lord and fell into apostasy; he “loved many foreign women” from nations that the Lord told Israel “You shall not enter into marriage with them…for they will turn away your heart after their gods.” (1 Kg. 11:1-3) And so they did.
The Lord grew angry with Solomon (v.9), and as a result he promised to tear his kingdom away from him and give it to his servants. His sons ruled the kingdom after his death and imposed tyrannical taxes and penalties which resulted in a great rebellion. The nation of Israel degenerated into civil war and was split into two kingdoms: north and south. (1 Kg. 12) It was never reunited, and within 400 years of Solomon’s reign both kingdoms had been conquered — and the temple destroyed — by invaders.
Why? Because national Israel broke its covenant with the Lord and apostatized This began with Solomon’s personal apostasy.
David Chilton, in Paradise Restored, recognizes that “One by one, Solomon breaks the three laws of godly kingship recorded in Deuteronomy 17:16-17: against multiplying gold (I Kings 10:14-25), against multiplying horses (I Kings 10:26-29), and against multiplying wives (I Kings 11:1-8). For the Hebrews, 666 was a fearful sign of apostasy, the mark of both a king and a State in the Dragon’s image.” (p.190)
There are numerous other uses of the number “six” that can be briefly discussed to better fill in its symbolic content.
In The Days of Vengeance, Chilton handily summarizes several when he wrote that “Six days out of seven are given to man and beast for labor (Ex. 20:8-11); the Hebrew slave was in bondage for six years before his release in the seventh year (Ex. 21:2); six cities of refuge were appointed for the accidental slaying of a man (Num. 35:9-15). Six is thus the number of Man, i.e. a human number.” (p.345)
Additionally, we can see this “number of Man” manifesting itself in King Nebuchadnezzar’s hubris. He built an image of gold that was 60 cubits tall and 6 cubits wide. (Dan. 3:1) He commanded all people in his kingdom to worship it, “and whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” (Dan. 3:6)
Nebuchadnezzar built a kingdom that ruled all the nations of the earth. He tried to set himself up as god. He built an image of gold for all to worship. It was not merely six cubits tall, as Goliath was, but sixty cubits, which is the number of Man multiplied by ten in order to increase its power.
Of course, he was later brought down to size by the true King of Creation.
THE SEED OF WOMAN CRUSHES THE SEED OF THE SERPENT
Finally, let’s look at the example of Jesus himself. He was crucified on the sixth day of the week: Friday. (John 19:14, 31) On that day, the seed of the woman had his heel bruised by the seed of the serpent. He was beaten, tortured, and pierced.
The unrighteous Roman pagans and apostate Jews crucified the Lord of Glory on Friday, the sixth day. This day was (seemingly) the ultimate triumph in history for man and antichrist.
It was a great, glorious day for “Team Six,” in other words.
Jesus spent the seventh day in the grave to pay for Adam’s sins, and then he was resurrected on the eighth day, a Sunday. As it turns out, the ultimate victory of apostate, over-reaching Man and Beast — “Team Six” — in their grasp for godly power was short-lived.
On the eighth day, Satan’s head was crushed definitively by the heel of the Seed: Jesus Christ. His power was broken during Jesus’ first advent.
We know from Scripture that the crushing of the serpent’s head was, and is, a multi-faceted event that took place in stages between Jesus’ birth until 70 A.D., when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. This process will be completed in the future when “Satan will be released from his prison” and fire will “come down from heaven” to consume the last of his followers just before he is “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur”. (Rev. 20)
In other words, Satan’s defeat was, is, and will be comprehensive.
For example, before his crucifixion Jesus testified that he “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Lk. 10:18) St. John, writing in Revelation, describes this event in more detail: “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. ” (Rev. 12:9)
That “his angels were thrown down with him” is made evident by the outbreak of demon possession recorded throughout the books of the New Testament.
THE CRUSHING YET TO COME
Paul told the congregation of the church in Rome to be wary of Satan’s minions, servants of the serpent who “do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Rom. 16:18)
He then comforted them, saying that “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (v.20)
Paul, an ex-Pharisee, who was the son of a Pharisee and trained under the strictest sect of Pharisees (Acts. 26:5), educated “according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers” and “zealous for God,” (Acts 22:3) was certainly familiar with the Biblical symbolism of the seed of woman and the seed of the serpent.
He used it in his epistle to the Romans to describe a future event that was certainly drawing near to completion: God would “soon crush Satan” under the feet of the Christian Church.
This was written after Jesus’ death and resurrection around 33 A.D. but prior to 70 A.D. At this point in history when Paul wrote these words, Christ had been born, crucified, resurrected, and had ascended into the clouds to be “taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. ” (Mark 16:19) This was a sign of Christ’s victory, but it was only the beginning.
HE MAKES THE CLOUDS HIS CHARIOT
As Jesus told his disciples, with his first advent the end of the Old Covenant age was drawing to a close. (Heb. 8:13) The Gospel spread like wildfire across the world at first, but as time went on, the Church began to suffer apostasy. Members fell away from within (as they do even today) and through the deception of false prophets and teachers from the outside who lured Christians away, especially from the likes of those “of the circumcision party.” (Titus 1:10)
The disciples of the Judaism cult teamed up with pagan Rome to persecute the early Christian church (just consider the words of the Pharisees to Pilot before they handed Jesus up to Rome: “We have no king but Caesar”, Jn. 19:15). Even though the defeat of Man and Beast had been definitive with Jesus’ resurrection, things started to get real bad for the early Christians as time went on.
But Jesus had already said that it would. Man and Beast weren’t going down without a fight. Jesus prophesied these chaotic days when he described great signs and portents during the days when “lawlessness will be increased.” (Matt. 24:12) After a period of great tribulation for the church, he said, “then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven coming on the clouds with power and great glory.” (v.30) (Paradise Restored, p.100)
St. John reminded the church of these things in the Book of Revelation in order to encourage them to hope. In the opening paragraphs, he reminded the early Christians that to Jesus Christ “be glory and dominion forever and ever.” (Rev. 1:6) “The one who endures to the end will be saved” [Matt.24:13] because “he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.” (Rev. 1:7)
John described the political and religious dynamics of those who persecuted the early church. He wrote of a sea beast to whom “the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.” (Rev. 13:2) Then arose a second beast up out of the land that “spoke like a dragon.” (v.11)
How do dragons speak? With cunning.
Notice the land beast’s objective: to make “the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast.” (v.12)
SYNAGOGUES OF SATAN
Is this not what the “circumcision party” was doing to members of the Christian church? If they were luring Christians away from Christ through their empty talk and deception to get lost in the laws of man and Jewish myths (Ti. 1:10-14) to worship anything other than Christ, then they would have been ultimately promoting worship of the Dragon. Who did members of the cult of Judaism worship? “We have no king but Caesar.” Caesar is Rome. Rome was the sea beast whom the Dragon had given his authority to. (Much like he had given his authority to Goliath, years before.)
This is evident by Jesus’ own words. To the church of Smyrna, Jesus said “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (Rev. 2:9)
To the church in Philadelphia, Jesus said “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie — behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.” (Rev. 3:9)
Judaism was not Old Testament religion. It was a cult who denied Christ and Moses. (John 5:46) Since no man can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24), and because whoever isn’t with Jesus is against him (Matt. 12:30), they worshipped the Dragon by way of Caesar worship. (“No king but caesar!”) Their houses of worship became synagogues of Satan.
So, as Scripture tells us, “the number of the beast” is “the number of a man, and his number is 666.” (Rev. 13:18)
Man and Beast were united in an all-out offensive against Christians, but as Paul said “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
Chilton, in The Days of Vengeance, summarized the significance of the number “six” and its symbolic associations by saying that “Six is thus the number Man was born with, the number of his creation; the repetition of the number reveals Man in opposition to God, trying to increase his number, attempting to transcend his creaturehood. But, try as he might, he can be nothing more than a six, or a series of sixes.” (p.345)
Man, in other words, can never attain the status of a “seven.” He can never transcend the creator-creature relationship. No matter how hard he tries or how high he climbs (Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar, Satan and his deception), he will always fail.
King Jesus will always defeat the servants of Satan. His Church will prevail in history. We must look forward to the future with optimism because God is sovereign over all of history. That was the primary message of Revelation. The significance of the number “666” is that, contrary to occult movies and doomsday fairy tales, no Man or Beast who fancies himself a “666” is worth fearing because its success in history has been predestined to failure.